The Tale of Ismail Khairi Bey

In the mid-nineteenth century, Syria (which then included much of modern Lebanon) was under Ottoman rule, and it was a troublesome province with a restless population that did not always embrace Turkish dominance and taxes. The hinterlands of Ansyria were crucial for trade routes and the prosperity of coastal cities such as Tripoli, and so the region attracted the attention of the European powers as well as the Turkish overlords. Along with political and economic discontent, there was also a combustible mix of religions including substantial populations of Druze, Christians, and Muslims. There had been rebellions before and there would be massacres later.  Our tale takes place in late 1858, not long after the end of the Crimean War.

Khairi Bey was a local chieftain in the Ansyrian mountains, ruler of Safita. He had annoyed the Turkish authorities by insufficient tribute and they stirred up the local Muslim population against him, while invading his territory from two directions.  This minor footnote in history is partially illuminated by some British diplomatic correspondence. We begin with a letter from Cavalié Alexander Mercer, British Vice-Consul in Tripoli to his superior, Consul-General Moore in Beirut.

October 26, 1858.
I have the honour to inclose a communication which I have just received from Ismael Khairi bey, and shall await your decision before I venture to return any answer… He is in a scrape certainly; the Turkish troops are preparing to attack him from all sides, and all the Moslem population is against him. The Christians speak well of him, and he appears to have governed his district comparatively well, and always paid the miri, &c. He wishes for support at this juncture, to insure his meeting with justice from the Government, and offers to proceed to Beyrout [Beirut] and abide the issue of his trial, if his enemies will do the same.  He has great influence over the whole Ansyrié population. As the troops are soon about to invade his territory, and time is precious, I am anxious for your orders as soon as possible, to know what to say or do.

Khairi Bey was in trouble, and he turned to the British to use their influence to guarantee him a safe passage, and a fair trial. Moore took the request to the local Turkish rule, Khorsheed Pasha, who “promised that Khairi Bey should have a fair trial if he surrendered himself to the Turkish military authorities”. The following day, Moore wrote back to Mercer with the news and told Mercer to impress upon Khairi Bey that a) the British had intervened diplomatically on his behalf, and b) they were offering no guarantees:

You will give Khairi Bey to understand that this is the result of the representations made by me on his behalf. At the same time he must be made to understand that no guarantee is given either on my part, or on that of any other British officer, in regard to the fulfillment of the Pasha’s promises.  It would be right that you should impress on Khairi Bey the risk he runs either in defying the Turkish authorities or in countenancing others of his countrymen in doing so.

Perhaps Khairi Bey found these assurances inadequate, or needed more time, or hadn’t reckoned on the intransigence of Tahir Pasha. At any rate, he sought safety with family. On November 22, 1858, Mercer again wrote to Moore:

Sir, I have the honour to inform you that Ismail Khair Bey, of Safita, was murdered last week at Karm-el-Aiounh, the residence of Aly Shallal, his uncle, with whom he had taken refuge on the approach of the troops under the command of Tahir Pasha. Aly Shallal was outlawed by the Ottoman Government and agreed to put Ismael Bey to death for a free pardon and the possession of the treasure this last had accumulated. When this agreement took place Aly Shallal’s house was surrounded by the Turkish soldiers, who feared to attack it as the position is very strong. Ismael Bey was informed by his uncle that his brother was dead; while under the influence of this intelligence Aly Shallal shot him in the side, and one of his men dispatched him, blowing his brains out. Hi sons (quite children) were being led off to Tahir Pasha as prisoners, when Aly Shallal, remembering that if they grew up there would be a blood feud between them, had them recalled and also put to death.  The heads of Ismael Bey and his brother have been sent, I hear, to Damascus, while their wives have been shared between Aly Shallal and others of his gang.

 

John Barrett, Wax-chandler

Ann Pratt was the only one of Joseph Pratt’s (1697—1768) children to outlive him. She married John Barrett, a wax-chandler with a shop in the Haymarket, London. Although she lived on until 1790, dying “of a lingering illness” (Whitehall Evening Post, August 26, 1790), they appear to have had only one (surviving) child, Isaac Bryant Barrett (1764—1802).

John Barrett was the grandson of Nicholas Barrett (d. 1721), himself a wax-chandler, and Letitia Hancock (d. 1749). Nicholas and Letitia had two children that survived, Isaac Barrett (ca. 1707—1792), John’s father, and Bryant Barrett (1715—1790). As the children were minors when he died, Nicholas Barrett left specific legacies in his will for each of them when they should attain majority before giving the residue to his wife.

In due course Isaac followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming an eminent wax-chandler.  Following an apprenticeship, he became free of the Worshipful Company of Wax-Chandlers in 1730 and eventually rose to become Master of the Company in 1762.  Along the way he gained a royal patent, thus supplying the royal palaces with wax candles (wax was more of a luxury item than tallow). This was doubtless a steady and lucrative contract.

The younger son, Bryant Barrett, followed a different, and somewhat more colorful, trajectory. In 1730, he was apprenticed to William Basnett, a laceman, and then pursued that career.  In the context of the times, a lacemaker, or wire drawer, was someone who made luxury items from gold and silver wire, such as braids, buttons, fringes, etc.  Bryant, too, rose to the top of his trade, becoming “lacemaker to his Majesty”. Lacemaking was a lucrative, but chancy business.  As a purveyor of élite luxury items, one could charge high prices, but the only people who could afford them were those who didn’t pay their debts. According to (Murphy 2010, 111) in 1761, “the combined debts to Barrett’s firm of the King, the Princess of Wales, the Master of the Horse, the Duke of York, and Princes William and Henry amounted to over £18000”. A tradesman needed a deep pocket to stay solvent.

Bryant Barrett’s life was also complicated by being an inordinate bibliophile (an expensive hobby at the best of times), and a Catholic, which closed many avenues to him in England at the time. Nevertheless, he bought a country house, Milton Manor in Berkshire, extending it with two wings (one for a library) designed by Stephen Wright of the Board of Works. Bryant Barrett’s nephew’s brother-in-law (i.e., Ann Pratt’s brother Thomas) had recently married Stephen Wright’s daughter. Bryant Barrett married twice, had a number of children and managed to hold his precarious finances together for his long life, although possibly not by much.  After he died, his brother Isaac made a codicil in his will giving £100 to the widow and children.

Meanwhile, Isaac Barrett had two sons that survived: John Barrett, and his younger brother, another Bryant Barrett (1743—1809). John Barrett succeeded his father in running the business in the Haymarket, making much of his Royal contract in his newspaper advertisements in the 1780’s. He also received a patent in 1784 for a dripless chandelier.

Barrett ad

John’s brother Bryant was also in the wax business, usually referred to as a “wax-bleacher”.  He married Elizabeth Tyers (1759—1834), granddaughter, and eventual heiress, of Jonathan Tyers (1702—1767), the developer of Vauxhall Gardens, and so Bryant Barrett took over that business after the death of his father-in-law  in 1792.

Vauxhall_Gardens_by_Samuel_Wale_c1751

Sources

Murphy, M. ‘The King’s laceman and the bishop’s friend: Bryant Barrett (c. 1715—1790), merchant and squire’, Recusant History 30 (1), (2010), 107—119.

Joseph Pratt, Bricklayer

When Thomas Howlett (1678—1759) was appointed master Bricklayer of His Majesty’s Works in 1736 in the place of Thomas Churchill, deceased, he shared the appointment with Joseph Pratt.  Thomas Howlett had been bricklayer to the Prince of Wales, and doubtless owed his new position to that patronage.  What of Joseph Pratt?

Joseph Pratt, junior, (1697—1768) was a well-respected bricklayer, being Master Bricklayer to the Office of Ordnance and was son to Joseph Pratt (d. 1750) also a bricklayer.  In fact both father and son in turn rose to become Masters of The Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers of the City of London, in 1721 and 1740 respectively.  Possibly of even more importance, Joseph Pratt had married Thomas Churchill’s only child, Elizabeth (1707-1768).

Joseph Pratt senior and his wife Elizabeth had (at least) nine children, but seven of them died in infancy, including the last four, all of whom died at less than 6 months of age. The survivors were James and Joseph.  James Pratt (1705—1740) also became a bricklayer “to his Majesty”, but died in 1740 apparently without leaving any wife or children.  Joseph Pratt junior and Elizabeth had four children who lived to adulthood, three girls and a boy.

The son, Thomas Pratt, also became a bricklayer, and, on the death of Thomas Howlett in 1759, succeeded in his place as joint Master Bricklayer to the Board of Works with his father. Thomas Pratt married on 23 June 1760 Mary Wright, daughter of Stephen Wright of the Office of Works, at that point Deputy Surveyor. Thomas and Mary had two children, Joseph and Charlotte before Thomas died in 1762. After his son’s death, Joseph Pratt held the office alone until his own passing in 1768, upon which the office was abolished.

Joseph Pratt and his son Thomas both married into the Office of Works. The daughters also married into similar circles. Sarah married James Morris, Master Carpenter of the Board of Ordnance, son of Roger Morris, Master Carpenter to the Board of Ordnance. Sarah died in 1760 without leaving any children. Elizabeth, who also sadly died young in 1759, married George Mercer, Master mason, and left several children.

The only one of Joseph Pratt’s children to outlive him was his daughter Ann.  She married outside of the craftsmen group, to a well-off tradesman, John Barrett, wax-chandler to His Majesty.

We shall have more to say of the interconnections of these families at the top of their trades in mid-eighteenth-century London.

The Bricklayers Labours

In 1734 and 1735, Robert Tatersal of Kingston-upon-Thames, spurred on by the success of Stephen Duck, produced two slim volumes of poetry, titled The Bricklayer’s Miscellany. The poems are on diverse subjects, but in “The Bricklayers Labours” he spoke uniquely of the daily life of the artisan.

At length the soft Nocturnal Minutes fly,
And crimson Blushes paint the orient Sky;
When by a kind of drowsy Stretch and Yawn,
I ope my Eyes, and view the Scarlet Dawn;
But stealing Sleep my Vitals still surprise,
And with a slumb’ring Softness seal my Eyes,
Till open Light corroborates the Day,
And through the Casement darts his signal Ray;
When up I start, and view the eastern Sky,
And by my Mark find Six o’Clock is nigh:
Then hanging on my Thread-Bare Coat and Hose,
My Hat, my Cap, my Breeches, and my Shoes;
With Sheep-skin Apron girt about my Waste,
Down Stairs I go to visit my Repast;
Which rarely doth consist of more than these,
A Quartern Loaf, and half a Pound of Cheese;
Then in a Linnen Bag, on purpose made,
My Day’s allowance o’re my Shoulder’s laid:
And first, to keep the Fog from coming in,
I whet my Whistle with a Dram of Gin;
So thus equip’d, my Trowel in my Hand,
I haste to Work, and join the ragged Band:
And now each one his different Post assign’d,
And three to three in Ranks completely join’d;
When Bricks and Mortar eccho’s from on high,
Mortar and Bricks, the common, constant Cry;
Each sturdy Slave their different Labours share,
Some Brickmen call’d, and some for Mortar are:
With sultry Sweat and blow without Allay,
Travel the Standard up and down all Day;
And now the Sun with more exalted Ray,
With glowing Beams distributes riper Day,
When amidst Dust and Smoke, and Sweat and Noise,
A Line, a Line, the Foreman crys, my Boys;
When Tuck and Pat with Flemish bound they run,
Till the whole Course is struck, compleat, and done:
Then on again, while two exalts the Quoin,
And draws the midmost Men another Line.
The Course laid out, when thro’ the fleeting Air,
A solemn Sound salutes the willing Ear;
When universal Yo-ho’s echo strait,
Our constant Signal to the Hour of Eight.
And now precipitant away we steer,
To eat our Viands, and to get some Beer;
Where midst the Clamour, Noise and smoky Din
of Dust, Tobacco, Chaws, and drinking gin,
The short Half-hour we merrily do spin.
When for Desert some with their Sun-burnt Fists,
Cram in a Chaw of Half an Ounce at least,
And then to sweep the Passage clean within,
Wash down their Throats a Quartern full of Gin.
And now again the Signal greets our Ear,
We’re called to Book, must at the Bar appear:
When the grim Host examines what we’ve done,
And scores sometimes devoutly two for one;
And now refresh’d again we mount on high,
While on calls Mortar, others Bricks do cry;
And then a Line, a Line’s the constant Sound,
By Line and Rule our daily Labour’s crown’d.
While to divert the sult’ry Hours along,
One tells a Tale, another sings a Song:
And now the Sun with full Meridian Ray,
With scorching Beams confirms the perfect Day.
Full Twelve a Clock the Labourers cry Yo-ho,
When some to Sleep, and some to Dinner go:
Some that have Victuals eat; others who’ve none,
Supply the Place with Drink and Gin alone.
Mod’rate in Food, but in good Beer profuse,
Which for the Heat we modestly excuse.
And now the gliding Minutes almost gone,
And a loud Noise proclaims the Hour of One;
Again we re-assume the dusty Stage,
The Mortar chas’d again we do engage.
This the most tedious Part of all the Day,
Full five Hours Space to toil without Allay:
Now parch’d with Hear, and almost chok’d with Dust,
We join our Pence to satiate our Thirst:
At length the Western Breezes gently play,
And Sol declining moderates his Ray;
Now the approaching welcome Hour draws near,
And now again the Signal glads our Ear;
The happy Hour we waited for all Day,
At length arrives our Labours to repay.
And now the Tools reposited with Care,
Until the morning Rays again appear;
Some homewards bend, some to the Alehouse steer,
Others more sober feast on better Cheer.
But when the Days contract an dwint’ry Hours rise,
And sable Clouds and Fogs invest the Skies,
When Frost and Cold congeals the Atmosphere,
And Trees disrob’d and hoary Fields appear;
When all the Earth in Ice and Snow is bound,
And nought but Desolation all around,
Then haples me! I wander up and down,
With half an Apron, wond’rous greasy grown!
With anxious Looks my Countenance is clad,
And all my Thoughts are like the Winter, sad!
This scene of Life corrodes y troubled Mind,
I seek for Work; but none, alas! can find;
Sometimes, by Chance, I have a Grate to set,
To hang a Copper, or a Hole repleat;
A Day or two to exercise my Skill,
But seldom more reluctant to my Will:
And this I pass the tedious Winter on,
Sometimes Repast I have, and sometimes none;
Till cheerful Phoebus with a grateful Ray,
Thro’ vernal Airs explores his will Way;
Dispells all Cares, and gladdens every Vein,
And all the joyous Scene revolves again.

His poems do not seem to have been successful.

Campbell on Bricklayers

In his London Tradesman, Campbell works through the building trades in Chapter 31, beginning with the architect and the stone mason, continuing:

The Bricklayer comes next under our Consideration. He differs from the Stone-Mason as much as his Materials; his Skill consists, considering him as a mere Bricklayer, only in ranging his Brick even upon the Top of one another, and giving them their proper Beds of Cements; for it is suppos’d, the Architect directs him in every thing related to Dimensions. But a Master-Bricklayer thinks himself capable to raise a Brick-House without the Tuition of an Architect: And in Town they generally know the just Proportion of Doors and Windows, the Manner of carrying up Vents, and the other common Articles in a City-House, where the Carpenter, by the Strength of Wood, contributes more to the standing of the House than all the Bricklayer’s Labour. He works by the Yard; that is, is paid by the Employer so much for every Yard of Brick-Work, either with or without the Materials, and is a very profitable Business; especially if they confine themselves to work for others, and do not launch out into Building-Projects of their own, which frequently ruin them: It is no new Thing in London, for those Master-Builders to build themselves out of their own Houses, and fix themselves in Jail with their own Materials. A Journeyman-Bricklayer has commonly Half a Crown a Day, and the Foreman of the Work may have Three Shillings, or perhaps a Guinea a week: But they are out of Business for five, if not six Months in the Year; and, in and about London, drink more than one third of the other Six.

Campbell is not wrong to warn of the dangers of speculation. During the rapid expansion of London and Westminster in the eighteenth century, a successful bricklayer may set himself up as a builder and build a row of houses speculatively.  Such projects did not always end well.

Mortimer, in the Universal Director, while not warning of bankruptcy, does illustrate the recent (in 1763) changes in funding house construction:

But of late years the capital Masters of the two branches of House and Ship Carpentry, have assumed the name of Builders, and Ship-Builders; for this reason, because they make an estimate of the total expence of a House or a Ship, and contract for the execution of the whole for the amount of their estimate; so that they take upon themselves the providing of all materials, and employ their own Masons, Plumbers, Smiths, &c. whereas formerly it was the custom form gentlemen and merchants to apply to the several masters in each branch, and employ them in executing their plans: this indeed is sometimes the case at present, but very rarely, particularly with regard to Houses, whole streets having lately been erected by Builders.

Related Posts:

Thomas Howlett, Bricklayer

Campbell on Painting

Campbell on Education

Campbell on Mathematical Instrument Makers

Thomas Howlett, Bricklayer

The first George Warren, master carpenter at Kew, married local girl Elizabeth Howlett (1703—1766), daughter of a bricklayer. However, this description is a little misleading.

The Warrens and Howletts both owned land around Kew Green and as the royal family became more interested in Kew and Richmond and expanded their building works, the Howletts prospered.  Elizabeth’s father, Thomas Howlett (1678—1759) became bricklayer to the Prince of Wales and, in 1736, together with Joseph Pratt, he was appointed Master Bricklayer of His Majesty’s Works. Thomas Howlett and Joseph Pratt were thus in charge of all brickwork in the royal residences.

Along with his daughter Elizabeth, Thomas Howlett also had a son, Thomas (1704—1737), but these are the only children of his that I know about.  Thomas junior was also a bricklayer, continuing the family line of work.  When Thomas died, he left a house “in the Occupation of Lady Judith Coote” to his father for life and then to his sister and his brother-in-law George Warren.  George Warren died in 1755 and the next year his father-in-law made a will with provisions for the children of his sister and for his grandchildren.  The eldest, George, was given £100 and three of his siblings £200 each.  However, George and Elizabeth had wisely named one of their children Thomas Howlett Warren (1733—1777); he got the bulk of the estate.  While the younger George was a carpenter, and his brother William a carpenter and wheelwright, Thomas Howlett became a gentleman.  By the time of his death in 1777 his estate included at least 15 buildings at Kew, including the Rose and Crown pub and, rather charmingly, “a large workshop adjoining the stable, occupied by his Majesty, now in the possession of Mrs. Warren”.

George Warren, Carpenter at Kew

Those who secured a craftsman position with the government typically had a position for life, and possibly for generations.  Such was the case with George Warren, carpenter at Kew.

The first of the Warren family to appear was George Warren (1698—1755). He married Elizabeth Howlett, daughter of a local bricklayer and became master carpenter at Kew. Little is known about his life, but he makes a brief appearance in the 1730s when Frederick, Prince of Wales, acquired the White House at Kew and began extensive renovations under the direction of architect William Kent. George Warren was the carpenter and his name appears in the accounts.

WhiteHouseAtKew

White House at Kew

George and Elizabeth had at least nine children, although five of them died young.  However, the second son, George (1731—1774) continued in the family line of work, and after his father died in 1755, he became carpenter and joiner at Kew. George Warren junior was thus the head carpenter at Kew when Kirby was appointed Clerk of the Works. The younger George Warren is best known nowadays for building the spiral staircase for the pagoda at Kew Gardens.

Pagoda (interior)

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

George Warren married Anne Stringer (1734—1784) of Richmond in 1759 and together they had four children at Kew, where he was also churchwarden. However, when George Warren died in 1774 (just a month after Kirby), his eldest son, George Thomas Warren (1765—1823) was not yet ten and too young to succeed the position. The Board of Works recorded in its laconic way:

August 5th 1774

The Board being acquainted that Mr. George Warren late Carpenter and Joiner at Kew House is dead

Order’d that Kemble Whatley do succeed him as Carpenter and James Arrow as Joiner at Kew House.

George’s widow Anne kept on the carpentry business in Kew Green and on her death in 1784 it passed down to her son George. George Thomas Warren appears in the Office of Works accounts as a joiner doing various work around Kew, including repairs to the Pagoda in 1811 and 1813.  George Thomas went into partnership with his brother Henry and they expanded as builders and carpenters based in Grosvenor Square as well as Kew, but it seems they expanded too much for they went bankrupt in 1815 and the case was still rumbling on in 1829, long after George’s death.